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BRAC Launches Report on SDG Contribution Voluntary Review 2023

BRAC has unveiled its latest report, shedding light on its significant contributions to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in line with the strategic direction set by the Government of Bangladesh (GoB).

The report, titled 'BRAC SDG Contribution Voluntary Review 2023' was presented at the BRAC Centre in the capital on Thursday, October 12, 2023. The publication showcases the collaborative efforts between development organisations like BRAC and Government of Bangladesh (GoB) as they work together to achieve the SDGs. BRAC is actively involved in advancing 15 out of the 17 SDGs.

The unveiling ceremony was graced by the presence of the honourable Minister for the Ministry of Planning, M. A. Mannan, MP, who attended as the Chief Guest. Md. Akhter Hossain, Chief Coordinator of SDG Affairs at the Prime Minister's Office; Dr. Shahnaz Arefin, NDC, Secretary of Statistics and Informatics Division participated in the event as the Special Guests. BRAC's Chairperson Dr. Hossain Zillur Rahman presided over the ceremony.

During the event held at the BRAC Centre in the capital, Minister for Planning M. A. Mannan, MP, launched the report. In his address as the Chief Guest, he said, “While it's commendable that BRAC has lifted 2 million people out of poverty, there's still a long journey ahead. There's no glory in poverty. We have the opportunity to take direct affirmative action through collaboration and ensure sustainable growth. A shift in the development approach is required."

Md. Akhter Hossain, Principal Coordinator of SDGs at Prime Minister’s Office, was present as the Special Guest. He said, “We have introduced an online SDG tracker to monitor progress, and we have also taken initiatives to localise the SDGs at district and sub-district levels. BRAC is one of the most important NGOs that is working with health, gender, climate change in hard-to-reach areas while recognising the SDG national priority targets in government strategies. We call out to all NGOs to publish their contributions to SDGs.”

BRAC Chairperson Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman, who chaired the event, said, “SDG 16 is all about justice, and the ultimate goal is to establish a just society. Bangladesh is grappling with numerous concerns and issues, which makes prioritisation a necessity. It's crucial to recognise that NGOs cannot operate in isolation. The challenges posed by COVID-19 and climate change highlight the fact that we all face the same existential crisis. Therefore, as NGOs, we should collaborate more with government and development partners, with our primary focus being the well-being of the people.

He outlined three calls to actions: "First, we need to build on our successes, recognise reversals and new challenges, and address them. The second call is to expand collaboration not only with the government but also with other NGOs. The third call emphasises the importance of building for sustainability, which requires knowledge, tracking, and analysis."

High-level government officials, representatives of donors, private sector partners, national-international non-governmental and civil society organisations, academia/research organisation and media attended in the event.

The session was moderated by BRAC Senior Director, KAM Morshed, with welcoming remarks at the beginning delivered by S. M. Monjur Rashid, Programme Head for Advocacy for Social Change at BRAC.

Distinguished representatives from the Cabinet Division, academia, development partners, and BRAC attended the event.

Over the past five decades, BRAC has collaborated with the Government of Bangladesh (GoB) in various capacities to achieve crucial development milestones, including the fulfillment of the Millennium Development Goals. Leveraging its development experience spanning more than half a century, BRAC continues to be a key driving force behind the implementation of SDGs in the country.

Between 2016 and 2022, BRAC successfully lifted over 2 million people from 449,990 households out of extreme poverty through its ‘Graduation Approach’. With an astonishing graduation success rate of 96.7 per cent, this accounts for a 18.4 per cent of national extreme poverty reduction during this period. Additionally, BRAC provided assistance to over 3.5 million people with disabilities through various interventions during this period. BRAC’s interventions extend to vulnerable populations in hard-to-reach areas, where it supported 157,896 households to enhance food and nutrition security.

Furthermore, BRAC operates throughout the country through its 16 development programmes and five social enterprises, addressing critical areas such as poverty alleviation, food security, healthcare accessibility, quality education, gender equality, and inclusivity. These concerted efforts enable BRAC to make substantial contributions toward achieving 15 of the SDGs.

This report is the second in a series of reports on BRAC's work toward the implementation of the SDGs, following the first report published in 2021.

Financial Inclusion Week: Female entrepreneurs set to showcase diverse range of products in Mymensingh

In a bid to highlight the entrepreneurial spirit of women in Mymensingh, a wide array of products ranging from handcrafted garments to agricultural goods, will be on display. This includes traditional items from the region.

Scheduled for Monday, 16 October, the “Uddoger Utshob” will kick off at 11 am and continue until 7 pm at the Boishakhi Mancha of Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin Park in Mymensingh city. Prospective buyers will have a unique opportunity to make direct purchases of various products, such as garments, food items, pickles, handicrafts, agricultural products, showpieces, and many more, from these enterprising women, supported by BRAC.

The event will be organised on the occasion of 'Financial Inclusion Week,' which commences on October 16.

BRAC is the driving force behind this initiative, with the aim of fostering female entrepreneurship by providing a platform for direct product showcase and sales. BRAC representatives will be available at the event, offering information on a diverse range of products and addressing queries related to the BRAC Microfinance Programme.

From BRAC's perspective, the primary goal of this event is to facilitate direct sales from female entrepreneurs to customers. It is also anticipated that entrepreneurs will gain invaluable insights into market demands for their products.This event is poised to make significant contributions to the expansion of small-scale businesses, ultimately enhancing economic empowerment for these driven entrepreneurs.

Through BRAC's Microfinance Programme, women are not only gaining financial independence but are also becoming self-reliant. BRAC firmly believes that by providing women with more opportunities, they will be better equipped to contribute substantially to the economic growth of the nation.

The pivotal role played by female entrepreneurs in bolstering the country's economic landscape cannot be overstated. BRAC's Microfinance Programme, which has already organised over 5.5 million female entrepreneurs and members, continues to be a linchpin in the development of small and medium-scale industries nationwide.

Health and Life Insurance for the Ultra-Poor: BRAC Partners with Pragati Life Insurance

In an effort to safeguard the health of the ultra-poor, BRAC and Pragati Life Insurance Limited are set to pilot a new health and life insurance programme called 'Nirapotta'. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed today (Sunday, 8 October) at BRAC Centre, formalising this partnership.

Palash K Das, Director, Ultra-Poor Graduation (UPG) programme, representing BRAC,  while Md. Jalalul Azim, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Pragati Life Insurance Limited, represented their organisation during the signing of the agreement.

Approximately 30,000 ultra-poor women, who are participants of BRAC UPG programme, along with their families living in Kishoreganj, Jhalakathi, Nilphamari, and under the Dhaka and Chattogram City Corporations, will access to the one-year 'Nirapotta' health and life insurance. The insurance covers various health services, including doctor's consultations, hospitalisation, postnatal care, a variety of lab tests, as well as coverage for natural and accidental deaths.

Md. Jalalul Azim stated, “Pragati Life Insurance Limited collaborates with various oragnisations to offer unconventional insurance solutions and estend insurance coverage to the uninsured community. The insurance programme that we are going to pilot as part of this partnership is a novel product.”

Palash K Das commented, “One of our key objectives in piloting this insurance programme is to ease the healthcare expenses burdening the ultra-poor population. We are optimistic that the insights gained from this initiative will be contribute to the development of an effective health and life insurance concept in the future. Furthermore, it will also connect more people to health services which will, in turn, play a role in poverty reduction in Bangladesh.”

BRAC study reveals: Over 60 per cent of households practice child marriage

A recent study conducted by BRAC has uncovered a concerning trend -- over 60 per cent of families in Bangladesh are practicing child marriage. This means that more than 60 per cent of girls who were married off or brought into these families as daughters-in-law within the last 5 years were under 18 years of age at the time of their marriage.

The findings were presented at a round table discussion at the BRAC Centre in the capital, titled, 'Child Marriage: Trends and Causes' today (Thursday, 5 October). Shashwatee Biplob, Programme Head and In-charge, Social Empowerment and Legal Protection Programme presented the findings of the study titled ‘Born to be a Bride, Child Marriage: Trends and Causes’.

BRAC's Social Empowerment and Legal Protection (SELP) Programme conducted this extensive household survey in 27 districts, encompassing approximately 50,000 households, to uncover the causes and trends related to child marriage. The survey revealed that within these districts, 44.7 per cent of girls experience child marriage before reaching the age of 18. Notably, Pirojpur district has the highest incidence of child marriage, with a staggering rate of 72.6 per cent, while Netrakona records the lowest rate at 24.1 per cent.

The study also found that 6.9 per cent of girls who fall victim of child marriage are even below 15 years of age.

Following Pirojpur (72.6 per cent), the districts with the highest rates of child marriage include Chapainawabganj (65.2 per cent), Naogaon (65 per cent), Thakurgaon (62.5 per cent), and Jaipurhat (61.4 per cent).

Among girls who experienced child marriage, 56 per cent were forced to marry before completing secondary education. A significant 44 per cent of parents made the decision in the pursuit of finding suitable husbands for their daughters. Additionally, 18 per cent cited economic hardship, 10 per cent attributed it to low or no dowry requirements, 7 per cent mentioned the lack of social security, 6 per cent linked it to education challenges, and 15 per cent attributed it to other factors.

The study gathered data using a non-probability purposive sampling method and semi-structured interviews.

The chief guest of the event, Begum Meher Afroze, MP, Honourable Chairperson of the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Women and Children Affairs, emphasised the importance of addressing child marriage in Bangladesh. Referring to grooms who marry young girls as 'viruses', she said, their identity should be revealed to the public. Sharing such news in media will bring social shame upon them. It's not solely the responsibility of the girls or their guardians; it's also crucial to educate the men who seek to marry underage girls. Conducting research to understand the reasons behind men marrying young girls is also of great importantce. Until parents begin to take pride in their daughter's identities and actively work to change their attitudes and mindset, this issue will persist.

Special guest, Ayesha Siddiqa, Deputy Director, Directorate of Women Affairs, highlighted that child marriage remains the primary obstacle to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). She pointed out the government's efforts in combating child marriage and emphasised that there is no substitute for raising public awareness about this critical issue through social and behaviour change communications (SBCC).

KAM Morshed, Senior Director, BRAC, said, "Child marriage will only decline when the demand for it diminishes. In our upcoming action strategies, the primary objective will be to identify and address the underlying causes of child marriage. By enhancing the self-esteem and life skills of adolescent girls at the community level, we can effectively combat child marriage, fostering a sense of hope and optimism."

The event was attended by representatives from bilateral and UN agencies, various national and international NGOs, and members of the media.

BRAC's Social Empowerment and Legal Protection (SELP) Programme has launched a comprehensive initiative to prevent child marriage. As part of this effort, SELP has developed a village-based platform named "Swapnosarothi" to support adolescent girls at risk of child marriage.

Click here for download the report.

36 per cent of the total population of Bangladesh is suffering from food insecurity

Despite significant progress in poverty reduction, nutrition levels have not improved as expected. According to the World Food Programme's food security monitoring 2023, 36 per cent of the total population of Bangladesh is suffering from food insecurity, and poverty and malnutrition continue to coexist. According to Nutrition International, malnutrition rates are alarmingly high in the Cox's Bazar region, where 29 per cent of children being underweight, and 35 per cent stunted. In this context, there is a call to raise public awareness about malnutrition.

Speakers presented the above opinions at a training event held on Wednesday (27 September, 2023), at a hotel in Cox's Bazar. The 'Adopting a Multisectoral Approach for Nutrition (AMAN)' project, funded by Nutrition International (NI), is being implemented by BRAC Health Programme. The training was organised to prepare field workers for the implementation of the 'Multisectoral Minimum Nutrition Package (MMNP)' as part of a multidimensional approach to nutrition development.

District and upazila-level government officials, along with a total of 50 field-level workers, participated in the training. Cox's Bazar District Livestock Officer Dr. Sahab Uddin attended the event as the chief guest. Ramu Upazila Livestock Officer, Dr. Asim Baran Sen, Sadar Upazila Livestock Officer Dr. Md. Atiqur Rahman Mia, and BRAC Health Programme’s (BHP) Rural Programme Operations Head Dr. Monowarul Aziz, among others, were also present.

Amit Kumar Malakar, project officer of Nutrition International and Mehnaz Binte Alam, Area Incharge of BHP, were present as trainers.

Cox's Bazar District Livestock Officer Dr. Sahab Uddin said, conveying essential nutritional messages to marginalised population is very important. All field-level workers of the livestock department should work in a more coordinated manner in this regard.

Dr. Monowarul Aziz, Head of Rural Programme at BRAC Health Programme (BHP), emphasised, “Consuming fortified foods is essential for maintaining household nutrition security, especially for poor families. Addressing the multifaceted factors contributing to undernutrition, such as improving dietary diversity and promoting optimal feeding practices, requires a collaborative, multisectoral approach involving government entities, civil society organisations, and the private sector."

The training camp covered discussions on enhancing the nutritional value of food using various ingredients and emphasised the importance of nutrition. Additionally, it focused on enhancing the practical knowledge of the training participants in nutrition development.

AMAN project encompasses a holistic health system, multifaceted measures for nutrition, and the nutrition development of the ultra-poor through Cox's Bazar's social safety net programme. Specifically, it involves working with local governments to improve the health and nutritional status of extremely poor women, children, and adolescents.

The AMAN project aims to improve the delivery of nutrition and gender-sensitive interventions by developing the capacity of government departments and supporting the implementation of Minimum Multisectoral Nutrition Package (MMNP) while ensuring quality multisectoral Social Behaviour Change Communication (mSBCC). Furthermore, it aims to assist in the implementation of the 'Multisectoral Minimum Nutrition Package' (MMNP).

BRAC Driving School opens new branch in Chattogram

BRAC Driving School, a pioneering institution dedicated to promoting road safety, has launched its newest branch in Chattogram. The inauguration ceremony took place on Monday, 25 September 2023, at the Bangabandhu Auditorium of Chattogram Press Club.

On the same day, a separate programme took place where 40 individuals were honoured with certificates for the successful completion of driver training at BRAC Driving School. This initiative is a result of a collaborative effort between BRAC and the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development, and Co-operatives (MoLGRD).

Deputy Commissioner and District Magistrate of Chattogram, Abul Bashar Mohammed Fakhruzzaman graced the inauguration of the Driving School's new branch as the chief guest. The session was chaired by Ahmed Najmul Hussain, Director of BRAC's Road Safety Programme. Towhidul Hossain, Deputy Director (Eng.), BRTA Chattogram Metro Circle-Chattogram and N M Nasiruddin, Deputy Police Commissioner (Traffic-South), Chattogram Metropolitan Police were present at the event as special guests. Mainul Hossain, BRAC's Road Safety Programme Manager, shed light on various aspects of the organisation's road safety programme. The programme was moderated by Project Manager M Khalid Mahmud.

Similar to other branches of BRAC Driving School, the Chattogram branch offers both fundamental and specialised driver training. Skilled instructors employ cutting-edge tools such as driving simulators, visual impairment systems, seatbelt convincers, and the P-Drive (Digital Driving Testing System) for the training programme. Additionally, there is a dedicated facility for women to receive instruction from female trainers.

In his address as the chief guest, Deputy Commissioner and District Magistrate of Chattogram, Abul Bashar Mohammed Fakhruzzaman suggested that BRAC could assist in piloting a scheme that includes training before obtaining licenses, providing defensive (Surokkha) training for drivers, and offering driving training as part of the Asrayan project. He recommended that BRAC should establish affiliations with internationally renowned training institutes or universities. Furthermore, he extended an offer of funding support through Corporate Social responsibility (CSR) to facilitate the implementation of BRAC's Surokkha driving training for all heavy vehicle drivers of Chattogram.

He emphasised the introduction of restrooms for long-distance drivers and assured that this would be raised during next DC's meeting chaired by the honourable Prime Minister.

Ahmed Najmul Hussain, Director of BRAC's Road Safety Programme, mentioned the safe system approach as the international standard to ensure Road safety. This approach includes safe roads, safe vehicles, safe road users, safe speeds, and post-road crash management. The hour following a road crash is referred to as the 'Golden Hour', and it is crucial for taking necessary actions that can reduce fatalities by up to 90%. 

Meanwhile, at a separate event, 40 individuals were awarded certificates for participating in driver training under the Comprehensive Village Development Programme (Phase 3), in collaboration with the MoLGRD, at Hotel Saikat in Chattogram.

Abdul Mannan Mia, Additional Commissioner of Police, Traffic, Chattogram, emphasised in his speech as the chief guest that Bangladesh is facing a shortage of one billion professional drivers. Currently, driving is one of the most highly sought-after professions worldwide.

Addressing the graduates from BRAC Driving School Chattogram, he said, 'Consider yourselves fortunate to have received this training. Treat your profession with respect and strive to be a positive influence, both within and beyond Bangladesh.

The event was also chaired by Ahmed Nazmul Hussain, Director of BRAC's Road Safety Programme. Dr. Monzur-Ul-Amin Chowdhury, Adjunct Faculty, School of Liberal Arts and Social Science (SLASS) in Chattogram Independent University and President of Ghashful, along with Salah Uddin Ibne Syed, Deputy Project Director, Comprehensive Village Development Programme (CVDP) 3rd phase, were present as special guests in this event.

The CVDP is an initiative of the Ministry of LGRD designed to provide various skills development trainings for employment and livelihoods in rural areas. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Ministry and BRAC in 2022 paved the way for the professional driver training under the 3rd phase of this project.

To date, 250 individuals have undergone basic driving training, with an additional 610 scheduled for training by the end of the year at BRAC Driving Schools in Jessore and Rajbari. The driving training at BRAC Driving School Chattogram commenced in August 2023 under this project.

Since 2001, BRAC's Road Safety Programme has been dedicated to enhancing road safety for all road users. A significant component of these efforts involves imparting safe road use training. To date, over 1.2 million regular road users, 5,6100 students, and 5,400 teachers have received training in safe road use.

As part of this initiative, BRAC Driving School conducts the BRAC Road Safety Programme. To date, 11,535 individuals have received commercial driving training, 8,114 in basic driving, 2,698 women in car driving, 2,013 in motorcycle driving, and 384 as driving instructors.

Prestigious 'Aga Khan Award for Architecture (AKAA)' committee visited Rohingya Camps

A five-member delegation from the 'Aga Khan Award for Architecture (AKAA)' committee visited the Rohingya Camps in Cox's Bazar today (Tuesday, 19 September). Dr. Hossain Zillur Rahman, former adviser to the caretaker government and chairperson of BRAC, along with senior officials from the organisation, joined the delegation during the visit.

Bangladesh has been honoured for six innovative structures with the prestigious 'Aga Khan Award for Architecture (AKAA)' for the year 2022. These structures showcased innovative, environment-friendly designs and community centres in the Rohingya camps and the host community in Ukhiya, Cox's Bazar.

BRAC has been awarded for five of these structures: four are located at Camp 1 East, Camp 3, Camp 4 Extension, and one in the host community in Ratna Palong, Ukhiya. International development organisation, ActionAid also received recognition for an additional structure in the Rohingya camp.

The delegation visited Camp 4 Extension, Camp 3, Camp 11, Camp 18, Camp 2 West, and Camp 5. At Camp 4 Extension, they visited BRAC's Women-Friendly Centre, Community Centre, and various exhibition centres, engaging with members of the Rohingya community. During this visit, the delegation stressed the importance of constructing environmentally friendly facilities within the Rohingya camps.

The delegation included Farrokh Derakhshani, Director of Aga Khan Award for Architecture (AKAA); Kareem Ibrahim, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Takween Integrated Community Development and on-site review expert for AKAA; Munir Merali, Resident diplomatic representative of Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN); Marina Tabassum, steering committee member of AKAA and architect of the organisation Saif Ul Haque.

Dr. Md Akramul Islam, Senior Director of BRAC; Rezaul Karim, Programme Head and Office in Charge; Md. Emamul Hoque, Programme Head; and other senior officials of BRAC Humanitarian Crisis Management Programme (HCMP) were also present during the visit.

Prior to the visit today (Tuesday, 19 September), BRAC HCMP, with the support of ActionAid organised an event to celebrate the recognition received at the ‘Aga Khan Award for Architecture (AKAA)’ for 2022 at a hotel in Cox’s Bazar on Monday, 18 September.

Dr. Hossain Zillur Rahman, former advisor of the caretaker government and Chairperson of BRAC, Mohammed Mizanur Rahman, Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC), Mohammad Shamsud Douza, Additional RRRC, Farah Kabir, Country Director of ActionAid Bangladesh, Farrokh Derakhshani, Director of Aga Khan Award for Architecture, Munir Merali, Resident diplomatic representative of Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) and Marina Tabassum, steering committee member of Aga Khan Award for Architecture, among others, spoke on the occasion.

Dr. Md Akramul Islam, senior director, BRAC, gave the welcome address.

BRAC Chairperson Dr. Hossain Zillur Rahman emphasised that development should prioritise environmental protection over environmental damage. In the context of Cox’s Bazar, a region surrounded by mountains and the sea, environmental protection holds significant importance. He also stated that this prestigious recognition from the 'Aga Khan Award for Architecture' would serve as great motivation to construct environment-friendly structures in the Rohingya camps.

Farrokh Derakhshani stated, 'This award recognition isn't limited to individuals; it also acknowledges larger-scale partnerships.'

Mizanur Rahman emphasised the importance of establishing safe and environmentally friendly centres within the camp to promote environmental protection.

A video highlighting the significance of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture was also screened. Following this, a cultural programme featuring local artists was held as part of the programme's conclusion.

The Aga Khan Award for Architecture is one of the most highly prestigious awards in the world and underscores efforts to ensure the safety of Rohingya women and children in the camps.

Silatech and BRAC partner to promote self employment through financial inclusion for 684,000 youth in Bangladesh

Silatech has announced a partnership with BRAC, the world’s largest development organisation, to promote youth income generation through financial inclusion and unlock access to finance for 684,212 youth in Bangladesh to become self-employed.

The project, Unlocking Financial Solutions for Youth Enterprise Development was signed on the sidelines of the 78th edition of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York on 17 September 2023.

It aims to address the lack of access to traditional financing resources for the youth of Bangladesh who seek to sustain, start, or expand their income-generating ventures.

Over the course of three years, the project will provide financing products to young people who do not have access to traditional banking services. Moreover, it will offer financial literacy and entrepreneurial training programmes to enhance the sustainability of their ventures and improve the financial literacy and capabilities of youth entrepreneurs.

The lack of access to formal financing is a significant challenge for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Bangladesh, with the World Bank estimating a financing gap of US$2.8 billion. This gap is particularly pronounced for women-led SMEs, as 60 percent of them lack collateral.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated these challenges, leading to reduced income, job loss, and limited financial access for youth. The project seeks to bridge this financial gap and create meaningful economic opportunities for young people and their families.

“By promoting youth income generation through financial inclusion and empowering Bangladesh’s youth, we are confident that this project will significantly improve their livelihoods, create more employment opportunities within their ventures, and drive sustainable economic growth. Bangladesh has a huge youth population with few opportunities as it is the densest country in the world, and we are excited to partner with BRAC, the world’s largest development organisation to help reduce the suffering of many youth due to lack of access to financial solutions" said Hassan Al Mulla, Silatech CEO.

Asif Saleh, the Executive Director of BRAC said, "BRAC believes in power of youth to drive economic growth. We are extending microfinance services and combining it with financial literacy, and entrepreneurship training to young entrepreneurs from marginalised backgrounds. Our client-centric approach ensures tailored financial products, while mentorship and capacity building would help the young entrepreneurs fuel the growth of their businesses. We are excited to be partnering with Silatech in testing this innovative model to support young entrepreneurs in Bangladesh. This will help us not only to design more effective products but also understand and manage risks better."

This partnership marks an important step towards youth economic empowerment and creating a more equitable and prosperous future for disadvantaged communities.

British High Commissioner visited BRAC school in Sylhet

Since commencing her post, British High Commissioner to Bangladesh, Ms. Sarah Cooke visited Sylhet for the first time on 23 August, Wednesday as a part of her mission and visited BRAC school beside Lakkatura Tea Garden.

During the visit, officials from The British High Commission accompanied The High Commissioner while Safi Rahman Khan, Director, Education, Skills Development, and Migration; Profulla Chandra Barman, Programme Head, BRAC Education Programme along with head office and field staff were present from BRAC.

The High Commissioner observed the class in the BRAC school and talked to the students about their experiences and feeling regarding getting back to school. Ms. Cooke shared her greeting with the teacher, staff, parents, and School Management Committee members and discussed the ongoing activities of the school.

Ms. Sarah Cooke expressed her contentment stating, “It was great to meet with the students and their parents who work at the tea plantations in Sylhet. It was clear to see that education is transformative, not just for the individual but also for the community. The UK is proud to support education for the most disadvantaged children in Bangladesh, with a particular focus on girls.”

Safi Rahman Khan conveyed his greetings to The High Commissioner and said “We are honoured to have welcomed Her Excellency Sarah Cooke to BRAC's education programme in the tea gardens of Sylhet to see first-hand the important work we are doing in partnership with the UK Government. All of us in the education sector have a responsibility to ensure that children living in poverty, particularly girls and children with disabilities, are not excluded from their right to education. Our accelerated schools are already delivering significant benefits, and Ms Cooke's visit will inspire and motivate our students, teachers, parents, and staff.”

Due to the unprecedented outbreak of COVID-19, all schools in Bangladesh were forced to shut down for 18 months, bringing traditional classroom teaching and learning to a standstill. The prolonged shutdown caused significant learning losses for children, putitng them at risk of dropping out and further swelling the ranks of an already sizable community of out-of-school children (OoSC).

Supported by The UK Government, the "Educate the Most Disadvantaged Children in Bangladesh (EMDC)" project of the BRAC Education Programme (BEP) is providing expedited primary education to OoSC from disadvantaged communities. The project's accelerated model includes a 4-month catch-up component (the Bridge course) to help students recover their previous learning. This is followed by a 6-month accelerated course with grade-specific learning, after which students transition to formal schools in the next grade.

The EMDC project is now in its second year, with more than 16,000 students having already completed the accelerated course from 650 BRAC schools. Additionally, 12,500 more students are currently enrolled in 500 more BRAC schools. It is estimated that over the project’s lifetime, a total of 1,47,500 OoSC will receive accelerated model education for 10 months through approximately 5,900 one-room schools.

BRAC Health Porogramme (BHP) hosted a special factory visit at Zaber & Zubair Fabrics Limited in Tongi, Gazipur, under the Mothers@Work project, supported by UNICEF, as part of BRAC’s month-long observation of World Breastfeeding Week. In commemoration of this year’s World Breastfeeding Week, BHP has launched a month-long celebration throughout August, focusing on raising awareness in the community and workplaces to promote breastfeeding. This year's theme is “Enabling Breastfeeding - Making a Difference for Working Parents.”

World Breastfeeding Week is observed every year to empower and support breastfeeding mothers and raise awareness of the numerous health benefits that breastfeeding offers both mothers and infants.

The celebration of breastfeeding, held on Sunday (August 20th), aimed to encourage support for the environment and promote breastfeeding among working parents. The programme was attended by government stakeholders, including the Line Director of National Nutrition Services (NNS), Professor Dr. Mijanur Rahman.

One of the highlights of the visit was a quiz competition organised for working mothers, addressing various breastfeeding-realted issues. This interactive session not only provided valuable information to the mothers but also offered them an opportunity to win exciting prizes. The event served as a platform for discussion and education, fostering a deeper understanding of the significance of breastfeeding for both maternal and child health.

Representatives from the organisations shared their insightful views and words of appreciation, emphasising the importance of BRAC's work and the positive impact on the lives of working mothers.

Chief Guest of the event, Professor Dr. Mijanur Rahman said "It's heartening to witness organisations like BRAC Health Programme and UNICEF taking substantial steps to advocate for important aspects of breastfeeding to develop a healthy workforce and a healthier generation for the future. Such initiatives are fueling our goals of promoting optimal maternal and child nutrition. It demonstrates how impactful public-private partnerships can bring about meaningful changes.”

Monira Parveen, Nutrition Officer, UNICEF added "Every mother deserves the opportunity to give her child the best start in life and we are pleased to support BRAC Health Programme in directly addressing the challenges faced by working mothers.”

Dr. Monowarul Aziz, Programme Head, BRAC Health Programme (BHP) said, “At BRAC, our dedication to improving the lives of mothers is unwavering. Our celebration of World Breastfeeding Week throughout August underscores our commitment to supporting working mothers and promoting breastfeeding as a fundamental aspect of maternal and child health."

The Mothers@Work project aims to create an enabling environment in the workplace for maternity rights protection and breastfeeding support for working mothers and their children. These interventions are crucial in the ongoing effort to create a more nurturing environment for working mothers. The interactive engagement, coupled with the endorsement of esteemed representatives, further solidifies the importance of breastfeeding in the RMG sector and beyond.

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